Maketu Local Carries out Rescue Four Days After Becoming Surf Lifeguard

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Maketu is a sleepy seaside town on the Western Bay of Plenty coast.


Known for its fishing and popular among surfers, it’s home to just over 1,000 people including 14-year-old Clay Simpson, one of Maketu Surf Life Saving Club’s (SLSC) newest surf lifeguards.


“It’s a good community and I pretty much know everyone who lives here.  But the best thing about Maketu is the beach which is only a five-minute walk from home so I can go down there whenever I want.”


His involvement with Surf Life Saving began seven years ago.


“Our whānau had just moved back from Tauranga, and we saw Surf Life Saving down at the beach.  It looked like fun, so I joined.”


After years participating in Junior Surf, last month Clay got his Surf Lifeguard Award which certifies he has the skills and knowledge to be a surf lifeguard.


Anyone over the age of 14 is eligible but you must successfully complete a number of exam components including a run-swim-run, answering theory questions, first aid, CPR, and radio communication skills.


“It was pretty good – the hardest bit was the first aid part, but it was fun.”


And timely, as just four days later his skills were put to the test when a beach outing turned into a rescue.


“We were coming back from town after getting an ice cream and we saw people running and screaming down at the beach.”


It was quite a rough day and four visitors from Auckland were swimming down by the estuary where a permanent rip current is.


“I instantly scanned the beach to see what was going on.  I saw people were being pulled out to sea in the rip.  I hopped out of my car and leaped into action.”


A Surf Life Saving member opened the Maketu SLSC and Clay grabbed a board.


“I paddled out, with two others, to the group of swimmers.  Our boards helped them to keep afloat – giving them something to grab hold of.  We spoke with the swimmers to reassure them they were going to be ok as we waited for Coastguard to arrive on their jet ski.  They then took them back to the beach, one by one.”


The four people were assessed and two of them were taken to hospital for further treatment after swallowing a significant amount of water.


Clay said he didn’t think twice about helping and wasn’t scared at all.


“I went into it with a huge adrenalin rush and afterwards I just felt so relieved the rescue had a good outcome.  The family were very grateful and said thank you.” 


For Clay, the ability to help others was one of the main reasons behind his decision to become a surf lifeguard.


“I’ve got my eyes on becoming an Inflatable Rescue Boat driver next.  I’ve got to get my Crewman’s Award first, then Drivers Award, and then I can rescue even more people.”


And with a rescue already under his belt, just three days after officially becoming a surf lifeguard, there’s little doubt Clay will continue making a positive impact.  Maketu and all its visitors, can rest assured; it’s in capable hands.